Dec 162018
 
 December 16, 2018  Posted by at 10:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Paul Klee Carnival in the snow 1923

 

Why The Fed Won’t Save The Stock Market (MW)
Why The US-China Trade Talks Will Work: The Personal Touch (Kuhn)
12 Months Of Bitcoin Misery (MW)
Failed By Both Major Parties, Betrayed Britain Lurches Towards The Abyss (G.)
British Minister Warns Brexit Is Stuck As No-Deal Or Referendum Loom (R.)
UN Climate Change Talks Avoid Contentious Issues In Draft Agreement (O.)
Deportations Under Trump Are On The Rise But Still Lower Than Obama’s (WaPo)
How The ‘Five Eyes’ Cooked Up The Campaign To Kill Huawei (SMH)
The Russia Investigations: A Case Still Unproven (NPR)
How Putin’s Russia Turned Humour Into A Weapon (BBC)
Late Night Swapped Laughs For Lusting After Mueller (S.us)

 

 

Where do we start? Because they killed it beyond salvation? Because to save it they would have to retreat completely? Because they have no idea what’s going on since all they know is based on false assumptions? Take your pick.

Why The Fed Won’t Save The Stock Market (MW)

Another brutal week left the stock market with its worst start to a December in 38 years, and a meeting of Federal Reserve policy makers might not offer the relief some investors are pining for when they conclude a two-day policy meeting on Wednesday, says one economist. How bad was it? Stocks ended a week of often whipsaw trading with a decided move to the downside Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 500 points, leaving it more than 10% below its early October all-time closing high, meeting a widely used definition of a market correction. It joined the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite which were already in correction mode. The S&P and Dow are negative for 2018, while the Nasdaq is clinging to a 0.1% year-to-date rise.

And it’s hardly an auspicious start to a month that’s historically a positive one for equities. Over the first nine trading days of the month, the Dow is down 5.6%, the S&P is off 5.8% and the Nasdaq is 5.7% in the red. That’s the worst start to a December for all three benchmarks since 1980, according to Dow Jones Market Data. That sounds bad, but it probably isn’t bad enough to convince the Fed to pause when it comes to interest-rate rises, said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets, in a note. Remarks by Fed officials, including Jerome Powell, have led some investors to look for the central bank to potentially end the rate-hike cycle after delivering a December increase, but Porcelli argued that still strong economic data meant the debate should be more focused on the merits of policy makers’ expectations for three or more rises in 2019.

And while stock-market volatility has seen a significant uptick, “equities have not deteriorated enough to warrant a pause,” Porcelli said, noting that unlike, say, the emerging-market crisis of 1998 when stocks fell sharply, U.S. equities today are still basically flat year-to-date when it comes to total returns. “On that basis, it is also worth pointing out that you cannot make the case that there is a negative wealth effect at play that is feeding through to the macro backdrop,” he wrote.

Read more …

Everybody knows a solution must be found.

Why The US-China Trade Talks Will Work: The Personal Touch (Kuhn)

The dinner meeting between the two presidents, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, lasted well longer than planned. Xi began with a well-prepared, detailed presentation that lasted 45 minutes and impressed even the US hardliners in attendance with its substance and resolve. Trump, as expected, extolled the meeting, but more meaningfully, I believe, China’s Ministry of Commerce immediately went on record to call the talks “very successful”. Other Chinese officials quickly affirmed that new measures would combat intellectual property theft. Even more significant, perhaps, rumours were afoot that major changes were in the works for “Made in China 2025,” including reductions in state subsidies for new technologies and a greater openness to participation by foreign companies.

The announcement that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a China hawk, was placed in charge of negotiations was greeted positively by Chinese officials who have long requested clarity in a single US point person with whom to negotiate. It is a socio-political principle that nationalistic hawks can often achieve peace more easily than globalist doves because it is more difficult for domestic detractors to undercut them as being “soft”. Regarding the apparent 90-day “drop dead” date, Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, said “If there’s good, solid movement and good action, he ‘[Trump] might be willing to extend.”

The arrest of Huawei’s CFO triggered accusations and counter accusations, but neither side, tellingly, called the trade talks into question. In fact, there were parallel affirmations the talks would continue. Peter Navarro, the White House adviser considered with good reason to be the most hawkish on China, said that stock markets should be “patient and optimistic”. Navarro, he of the “death by China” screed, said what? Optimistic! Moreover, when I speak to Chinese economists, I hear the conviction that many of the US demands – IPR protection, opening up markets, reductions in state subsidies – are precisely what China needs to do anyway.

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The swings forbid any notion of it being an investment.

12 Months Of Bitcoin Misery (MW)

Monday, Dec. 17, will mark one year since the price of bitcoin — the best-known cryptocurrency — hit an all-time high just shy of $20,000. For bulls who bought the hype, it’s been a long — and painful — ride down. At the time, the digital currency was up more than 1,000% for 2017, both the CME Group and Cboe had just launched bitcoin futures contracts, and everyone seemed to be making money as talk about the previously obscure crypto market made its way into the mainstream media. In retrospect, it appeared all too easy: Bitcoin rose 11 of the 12 weeks leading up to the Dec. 17 peak and logged gains in eight of the last nine months in 2017. Day traders were millionaires, analysts were predicting further drastic price increases and investors jumped on what looked like an endless gravy train.

According to Crypto Fund Research, 85 crypto-related funds launched in the first three months of 2018, and at Jan. 1 2018, there was $5.8 billion of assets under management in the crypto hedge fund industry, compared with $675 million a year earlier. But, in the blink of an eye, the tide turned: A January correction soon turned into a collapse and then turned into what was dubbed a prolonged crypto winter — a season that has yet to end. From their peaks, most major coins lost more than 80%. Bitcoin has shed as much as 85%. Ether, the popular currency that runs on the ethereum blockchain, fell as much as 95%, losing its title of the second-largest digital currency.

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Britain’s been too slow to ditch its old parties. Same as US. All over continental Europe, the process has started already.

Failed By Both Major Parties, Betrayed Britain Lurches Towards The Abyss (G.)

The seesaw is smashed. The pendulum is stuck. The tides are frozen. All the trusty images that used to help explain British politics have been scrambled by Brexit. Back in simpler times, a bad week for one politician or party translated into a good one for a rival. Seesaws went up and down. Pendulums swung. Tides flowed in and out. It is one of the unique characteristics of the Brexit crisis that it makes winners of none and losers of all. The past seven days have demonstrated that this is a wind so ill that it blows no one any good. The most deserved losers are the Brexit ultras. They finally launched their leadership coup and failed miserably. Without a plausible plan or a credible leader, these are the men who put the ass into assassin.

After all their prating about “taking back control”, they couldn’t even organise the removal of a mortally wounded prime minister. The Brexit fanatics have always been a minority of a minority and now no one can be in any doubt about that. And this same gang claim they could negotiate a superior agreement with the EU or handle a no-deal Brexit in 100 days that are left? Oh, please. Yet there was no humility in defeat from the ultras. It was with a poisonous lack of grace that they continued to demand Mrs May’s resignation even after she had prevailed in the confidence vote that they forced upon their party. You are entitled to belly laugh the next time that anyone tries to commend Jacob Rees-Mogg as a courteous gentleman.

The mask of phoney civility slipped when this serpent in a double-breasted suit continued to hiss for Mrs May’s head after his coup had failed. Alas for her, the defeat of her tormentors did not amount to a victory for the prime minister. To keep her job for now, she had to pledge to give it up before the next election. Mrs May purchased her survival in the currency of humiliation. [..] Mrs May remains imprisoned by the parliamentary maths, her past mistakes and her lack of dexterity. After all the to and fro between Westminster and European capitals, pinging from one side of the Channel to the other like a battered shuttlecock, there is no better prospect of her deal passing the Commons than there was on Monday when she swerved the vote.

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Now the Tories want a second vote?!

British Minister Warns Brexit Is Stuck As No-Deal Or Referendum Loom (R.)

Britain’s exit from the European Union was heading for an impasse, one senior minister said on Saturday, after a week in which Prime Minister Theresa May failed to win EU assurances on her deal and pulled a vote because UK lawmakers would defeat it. With just over 100 days until Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, Brexit remains up in the air with growing calls for a no-deal exit, a potentially disorderly divorce that business fears would be highly damaging, or for a second referendum. May pulled a vote on her deal on Monday after acknowledging it would be heavily defeated over concerns about the “backstop”, an insurance policy designed to avoid any hard land border for Ireland but which critics say could bind Britain to EU rules indefinitely.

Two days later, she survived a plot to oust her from those in her own party who support a hardline Brexit, showing the level of opposition she faced. May herself has acknowledged that Britain’s parliament appears deadlocked with no clear support for any option, with the small Northern Irish party that props up her government leading the criticism of her deal. “Brexit is in danger of getting stuck – and that is something that should worry us all,” pensions minister Amber Rudd wrote in Saturday’s Daily Mail newspaper. “If MPs (lawmakers) dig in against the prime minister’s deal and then hunker down in their different corners, none with a majority, the country will face serious trouble.”

[..] Rudd – one of five ministers who, according to newspapers, are leaning toward having a second referendum – said a no-deal scenario “mustn’t be allowed to happen” and urged lawmakers from all parties come together to stop it. “We need to try something different. Something that people do in the real world all the time, but which seems so alien in our political culture – to engage with others,” she said. “We need to acknowledge the risk that parliament could spend the next precious few months debating about preferred solutions and end up with no compromise, no agreement and no deal.”

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These conferences are simply the wrong way to treat the issue. Incumbent governments and industries owe their powers to what they must now change radically. That threatens those powers, so they’ll delay where they can.

UN Climate Change Talks Avoid Contentious Issues In Draft Agreement (O.)

The UN met on Saturday in Poland to discuss a draft agreement on climate change, which sources said was likely to pass, as exhausted delegates made compromises on some key issues but left other contentious problems to be resolved next year. The result will not be the breakthrough campaigners and some countries were hoping for, but will keep discussions alive on formulating key aspects of the implementation rules for the 2015 Paris accord. Delegates have been thrashing out a text on the complex mechanisms required to put the Paris goals into effect for the past two weeks, and appeared partly successful as the talks overran their Friday deadline and looked likely to continue into late afternoon on Saturday at least.

The text will give countries clarity on key points such as accounting for their greenhouse gas emissions and recording their carbon reductions. They will also go some way to encourage the stepping up of each country’s climate change efforts. Among the issues holding up progress is the highly technical question of what should happen to the market for carbon credits, held by some countries in recognition of their emissions-cutting efforts and their carbon sinks, such as forests. These credits count toward countries’ emissions-cutting targets. Brazil introduced wording that would benefit the country for its huge rainforest cover, but critics said contained loopholes that allowed for double counting of carbon credits would severely undermine the integrity of the system.

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Not to say what happens today is not bad, but that it’s happened for many years. it’s America, not Trump.

Deportations Under Trump Are On The Rise But Still Lower Than Obama’s (WaPo)

Amid President Trump’s push for tighter immigration policies, the United States deported more than 256,000 people in 2018 — the highest number since the Obama administration, new data shows. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Ronald D. Vitiello announced Friday that in the past fiscal year, which ended in September, ICE has detained “a record number” of people in the country illegally and that the number of those deported has risen about 13 percent since 2017. The data, which comes from a new agency report, shows that 145,262 of those deported were convicted criminals and that 22,796 had criminal charges pending against them. In addition, 5,872 were reported as known or suspected gang members, and 42 were believed to be terrorists, according to the report.

The number of families and unaccompanied children who were deported also increased. ICE said that 2,711 who were traveling in families and 5,571 unaccompanied children were removed from U.S. soil. “We’ve continued to achieve gains in all meaningful enforcement measurements,” Vitiello said, despite significant underfunding. The strain on resources is a consequence of current border crisis, he said. “With the continued surge and without congressional action to fund the agency at adequate levels, ICE may be forced to make difficult choices that could hamper our ability to fulfill our public safety or national security mission,” he added, noting that the agency does not want to release detainees as a result of budgetary constraints because it would create a public safety risk.

[..] Mary Bauer, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said it is “appalling and morally unconscionable that this is the place where we find ourselves” — deporting people “without a sense of priorities.” “It used to be that there was a sense that they were looking for people who had committed serious crimes,” she said in a phone interview with The Washington Post. In fact, U.S. deportation numbers were higher during the Obama administration, reaching 409,849 in 2012, according to ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations reports. Data shows that in 2015 and 2016, however, the number of those deported dropped to 235,413 and 240,255, respectively.

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They’re all ruled by their intelligence services.

How The ‘Five Eyes’ Cooked Up The Campaign To Kill Huawei (SMH)

The man who runs an agency that unlocks electronic secrets had a poacher’s view of the threat: “Offence informs defence and defence informs offence. Or to put it another way, to catch a thief, you will need to think like one (or perhaps, be one).” Since then he has given a TV interview and opened a Twitter account with a lively first post; “Hi internet, ASD here. Long time listener, first time caller.” Burgess has even dabbled in some light trolling of Huawei. On November 21 when a Huawei executive boasted of successfully separating the core and access parts of a 5G network in New Zealand he tagged the ASD boss on his post. To the surprise of most Burgess replied; “Thanks for sharing. In my business I’ve never seen anything “fully isolated…”.

Seven days later New Zealand banned Huawei from supplying 5G equipment to mobile phone company Spark. Then on December 6, the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, David Vigneault, who had hosted the annual Five Eyes gathering, used his first ever public speech to warn of an emerging threat. “CSIS has seen a trend of state-sponsored espionage in fields that are crucial to Canada’s ability to build and sustain a prosperous, knowledge-based economy,” he said. “I’m talking about areas such as AI [artificial intelligence], quantum technology, 5G, biopharma and clean tech. In other words, the foundation of Canada’s future growth.”

No one was in any doubt he was talking about China. A formal ban on Huawei and ZTE from Ottawa is expected within weeks. A day after the Canadian spy boss spoke, the head of MI6 was on his feet at his old Scottish university, St Andrews. In a speech described as “rare” he warned that “much of the evolving state threat is about our opponents’ increasingly innovative exploitation of modern technology”.

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Weakish piece, but the point must be made.

The Russia Investigations: A Case Still Unproven (NPR)

Editor’s Note: This story has been edited to make it clear that it is analysis and that the allegations of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians remain unproven.

Political and legal danger for President Trump may be sharpening by the day, but the case that his campaign might have conspired with the Russian attack on the 2016 election is still unproven despite two years of investigations, court filings and even numerous convictions and guilty pleas. Trump has been implicated in ordering a scheme to silence two women ahead of Election Day in 2016 about the alleged sexual relationships they had with him years before. That is a serious matter, or it might have been in other times, but this scheme is decidedly not a global conspiracy with a foreign power to steal the election.

More broadly, the president and his supporters say, the payments to the women in 2016 are penny ante stuff: Breaking campaign finance law, if that did take place, isn’t like committing murder, said one lawyer for the president. The “biased” Justice Department is just grasping at straws to use something against Trump because it hasn’t been able to locate a “smocking gun,” as Trump wrote this week, that would tie his campaign in with Russia’s active measures in 2016.

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What does the BBC want? For Russia to stop laughing? Look through your own coverage and see where Russia was accused of god knows what without proper evidence. If that happened to you, you’d be laughing too. There’s nothing else left. it’s not as if Russia is allowed to defend itself.

How Putin’s Russia Turned Humour Into A Weapon (BBC)

In the dying days of the Soviet Union, Russians used humour to escape the bleak reality of economic stagnation, food shortages and long queues. Political satire flourished on TV in the form of latex puppets during the 1990s, but it was quickly slapped down when Vladimir Putin came to power. In today’s Russia, where the media is largely controlled by the Kremlin and its allies, there is little room for genuine political humour unless it is used to deflect the blame from the government. Humour and ridicule were a key part of Moscow’s response when the UK said it was “highly likely” that Russia was behind the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury.

Russian officials and media figures have since tried to turn the English phrase “highly likely” into a mocking catchphrase that implies Russia is being blamed for everything with the flimsiest of evidence. They have enlisted a range of popular figures from English literature, such as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, to ridicule British allegations of Russian involvement in the poisoning which they denounce as unfounded. [..] One spoof job advert joked that the GRU was “looking for employees for its cyber-attack department, chemical weapons department and election-meddling unit. There is no need to apply – we will find you ourselves”. Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as “disinformation for the information age”.

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Late night talk shows are dead. Smothered in the echo chamber.

Late Night Swapped Laughs For Lusting After Mueller (S.us)

If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy. One feature of the Mueller saga is the enormous amount of energy that has been expended on venerating and defending him; energies which, at least theoretically, could have been directed toward doing something useful. The trend seems to reflect the total political enervation of this class of people – elite liberal culture-producers and consumers – who are still whipsawing between two-bit schemes to topple Trump, while in the process glossing over (or ignoring, or ridiculing) the structural forces which gave rise to Trump in the first place.

Their expressions of comedic angst actually render them more and more politically impotent. Democrats’ success in the midterms may have given the false assurance that a critical mass of the country actually respects this drivel. To understand how late night comedy got so uniquely tedious, it’s instructive to consider Colbert in particular. He first emerged as a protegée of Jon Stewart, whose Daily Show received such adulation in the early-and-mid 2000s because Stewart appeared to be doing something different and, yes, subversive – castigating the media for its illogical deference to power, a sorely needed antidote in the years of George W. Bush. (Whether this schtick was truly subversive is another question, but it did at least seem that way for a time.)

The popular TV comedians of today, conversely, are the polar opposite of subversive. Nothing about their daily pillorying of Trump challenges conventional wisdom, because unrestrained personal animus for Trump is the defining characteristic of conventional wisdom. When Bush was waging the Iraq War, he did so bolstered by a media consensus that cast him and his cause in an honorable light, and depicted his critics as screeching anti-war freaks. Even before he was inaugurated, Trump has been heaped with a level of scorn so ferocious that it would have made Dick Cheney blush.

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Mar 082017
 


Dorothea Lange A Family Of Mexican Migrants, On The Road In California 1936

 

Wikileaks ‘Vault 7’, Largest Ever Publication Of Confidential CIA Docs (ZH)
Snowden: What The Wikileaks Revelations Show Is “Reckless Beyond Words” (ZH)
WikiLeaks Releases Trove of Alleged CIA Hacking Documents (NYT)
Wikileaks: CIA Capable Of Cyber “False Flag” Attack To Blame Russia (TAM)
CIA Contractor on #VAULT7 Leak: ‘There is Heavy Shit Coming Down’ (RF)
US Trade Deficit Jumps To Five-Year High On Imports (R.)
China Posts Rare Trade Deficit As February Imports Surge in Yuan Terms (R.)
Why Are Europe’s Small Central Banks Stocking Up Foreign Money? (WSJ)
Dispel The Economic Myths That Hold Women Back (Ann Pettifor)
Austerity Is A Feminist Issue (G.)
The Women’s Protest That Sparked The Russian Revolution (G.)
Vacant Homes Are A Global Epidemic (BD)
There’s No Housing Bubble in Australia, Heads of Big Banks Say (BBG)
Australian Lenders Are Handing Out Mortgages Like Confetti (LF)
Greece’s Still-Falling GDP Dispels Creditors’ “Recovery” Myth (Prime)
Tax Weary Greek Employers Pay In Kind As Creditor Demands Rise (BBG)
America’s Forgotten History of Illegal Deportations (Atlantic)

 

 

It’s obvious there is only one story today, which ironically(?!) blows the whole Trump-Russia accusation narrative to bits, even though of course Russia gets the blame for this too in all sorts of corners. But the files are reported to have been ‘out there’ for a while, in the hands of hackers and possible foreign agencies. The CIA spent a huge wad of taxpayer money on this, and then lost it all. It’s early days to say what this will mean for the agency’s abilities, and the nation’s safety, as well as that of American citizens, but it’s not good. Question is: who’s going to investigate how this could have happened? (Snowden and Kim Dotcom could)… And who’s going to repair the damage done? Anyone could be spying on your phone and your TV by now, not just the CIA -as if that wouldn’t be bad enough.

And this is just the first part. Wikileaks has announced more from where this came from.

Wikileaks ‘Vault 7’, Largest Ever Publication Of Confidential CIA Docs (ZH)

A total of 8,761 documents have been published as part of ‘Year Zero’, the first in a series of leaks the whistleblower organization has dubbed ‘Vault 7.’ WikiLeaks said that ‘Year Zero’ revealed details of the CIA’s “global covert hacking program,” including “weaponized exploits” used against company products including “Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.”

WikiLeaks tweeted the leak, which it claims came from a network inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.

Among the more notable disclosures which, if confirmed, “would rock the technology world“, the CIA had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

Another profound revelation is that the CIA can engage in “false flag” cyberattacks which portray Russia as the assailant. Discussing the CIA’s Remote Devices Branch’s UMBRAGE group, Wikileaks’ source notes that it “collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

“With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from. UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.”

As Kim Dotcom summarizes this finding, “CIA uses techniques to make cyber attacks look like they originated from enemy state. It turns DNC/Russia hack allegation by CIA into a JOKE

But perhaps what is most notable is the purported emergence of another Snowden-type whistleblower: the source of the information told WikiLeaks in a statement that they wish to initiate a public debate about the “security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”  Policy questions that should be debated in public include “whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency,” WikiLeaks claims the source said.

The FAQ section of the release, shown below, provides further details on the extent of the leak, which was “obtained recently and covers through 2016”. The time period covered in the latest leak is between the years 2013 and 2016, according to the CIA timestamps on the documents themselves. Secondly, WikiLeaks has asserted that it has not mined the entire leak and has only verified it, asking that journalists and activists do the leg work.

Among the various techniques profiled by WikiLeaks is “Weeping Angel”, developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones. After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.

As Kim Dotcom chimed in on Twitter, “CIA turns Smart TVs, iPhones, gaming consoles and many other consumer gadgets into open microphones” and added ” CIA turned every Microsoft Windows PC in the world into spyware. Can activate backdoors on demand, including via Windows update”

Dotcom also added that “Obama accused Russia of cyberattacks while his CIA turned all internet enabled consumer electronics in Russia into listening devices. Wow!”

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor stated that “There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber ‘weapons’. Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such ‘weapons’, which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade. But the significance of “Year Zero” goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective.”

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“…first public evidence US [Government] secretly paying to keep US software unsafe”

Snowden: What The Wikileaks Revelations Show Is “Reckless Beyond Words” (ZH)

While it has been superficially covered by much of the press – and one can make the argument that what Julian Assange has revealed is more relevant to the US population, than constant and so far unconfirmed speculation that Trump is a puppet of Putin – the fallout from the Wikileaks’ “Vault 7” release this morning of thousands of documents demonstrating the extent to which the CIA uses backdoors to hack smartphones, computer operating systems, messenger applications and internet-connected televisions, will be profound. As evidence of this, the WSJ cites an intelligence source who said that “the revelations were far more significant than the leaks of Edward Snowden.”

Mr. Snowden’s leaks revealed names of programs, companies that assist the NSA in surveillance and in some cases the targets of American spying. But the recent leak purports to contain highly technical details about how surveillance is carried out. That would make them far more revealing and useful to an adversary, this person said. In one sense, Mr. Snowden provided a briefing book on U.S. surveillance, but the CIA leaks could provide the blueprints. Speaking of Snowden, the former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower, who now appears to have a “parallel whisteblower” deep inside the “Deep State”, i.e., the source of the Wikileaks data – also had some thoughts on today’s CIA dump.

In a series of tweets, Snowden notes that “what @Wikileaks has here is genuinely a big deal”, and makes the following key observations “If you’re writing about the CIA/@Wikileaks story, here’s the big deal: first public evidence USG secretly paying to keep US software unsafe” and adds that “the CIA reports show the USG developing vulnerabilities in US products, then intentionally keeping the holes open. Reckless beyond words.” He then asks rhetorically “Why is this dangerous?” and explains “Because until closed, any hacker can use the security hole the CIA left open to break into any iPhone in the world.” His conclusion, one which many of the so-called conspiratorial bent would say was well-known long ago: “Evidence mounts showing CIA & FBI knew about catastrophic weaknesses in the most-used smartphones in America, but kept them open – to spy.”

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“..WikiLeaks, which has sometimes been accused of recklessly leaking information that could do harm, said it had redacted names and other identifying information from the collection. It said it was not releasing the computer code for actual, usable weapons “until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the C.I.A.’s program and how such ‘weapons’ should be analyzed, disarmed and published.”

WikiLeaks Releases Trove of Alleged CIA Hacking Documents (NYT)

In what appears to be the largest leak of C.I.A documents in history, WikiLeaks released on Tuesday thousands of pages describing sophisticated software tools and techniques used by the agency to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions. The documents amount to a detailed, highly technical catalog of tools. They include instructions for compromising a wide range of common computer tools for use in spying: the online calling service Skype; Wi-Fi networks; documents in PDF format; and even commercial antivirus programs of the kind used by millions of people to protect their computers. A program called Wrecking Crew explains how to crash a targeted computer, and another tells how to steal passwords using the autocomplete function on Internet Explorer. Other programs were called CrunchyLimeSkies, ElderPiggy, AngerQuake and McNugget.

The document dump was the latest coup for the antisecrecy organization and a serious blow to the C.I.A., which uses its hacking abilities to carry out espionage against foreign targets. The initial release, which WikiLeaks said was only the first installment in a larger collection of secret C.I.A. material, included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, many of them partly redacted by WikiLeaks editors to avoid disclosing the actual code for cyberweapons. The entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, the group claimed. In one revelation that may especially trouble the tech world if confirmed, WikiLeaks said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services have managed to compromise both Apple and Android smartphones, allowing their officers to bypass the encryption on popular services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate smartphones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

Unlike the National Security Agency documents Edward J. Snowden gave to journalists in 2013, they do not include examples of how the tools have been used against actual foreign targets. That could limit the damage of the leak to national security. But the breach was highly embarrassing for an agency that depends on secrecy. Robert M. Chesney, a specialist in national security law at the University of Texas at Austin, likened the C.I.A. trove to National Security Agency hacking tools disclosed last year by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. “If this is true, it says that N.S.A. isn’t the only one with an advanced, persistent problem with operational security for these tools,” Mr. Chesney said. “We’re getting bit time and again.”

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No ‘evidence’ (and remember none was provided to date) of Russian spying is the least bit credible anymore after today.

Wikileaks: CIA Capable Of Cyber “False Flag” Attack To Blame Russia (TAM)

According to a Wikileaks press release, the 8,761 newly published files came from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI) in Langley, Virginia. The release says that the UMBRAGE group, a subdivision of the center’s Remote Development Branch (RDB), has been collecting and maintaining a “substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states, including the Russian Federation.” As Wikileaks notes, the UMBRAGE group and its related projects allow the CIA to misdirect the attribution of cyber attacks by “leaving behind the ‘fingerprints’ of the very groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.”

In other words, the CIA’s sophisticated hacking tools all have a “signature” marking them as originating from the agency. In order to avoid arousing suspicion as to the true extent of its covert cyber operations, the CIA has employed UMBRAGE’s techniques in order to create signatures that allow multiple attacks to be attributed to various entities – instead of the real point of origin at the CIA – while also increasing its total number of attack types. Other parts of the release similarly focus on avoiding the attribution of cyberattacks or malware infestations to the CIA during forensic reviews of such attacks. In a document titled “Development Tradecraft DOs and DON’Ts,” hackers and code writers are warned “DO NOT leave data in a binary file that demonstrates CIA, U.S. [government] or its witting partner companies’ involvement in the creation or use of the binary/tool.” It then states that “attribution of binary/tool/etc. by an adversary can cause irreversible impacts to past, present and future U.S. [government] operations and equities.”

While a major motivating factor in the CIA’s use of UMBRAGE is to cover it tracks, events over the past few months suggest that UMBRAGE may have been used for other, more nefarious purposes. After the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election shocked many within the U.S. political establishment and corporate-owned media, the CIA emerged claiming that Russia mounted a “covert intelligence operation” to help Donald Trump edge out his rival Hillary Clinton.[..] the U.S. intelligence community’s assertions that Russia used cyber-attacks to interfere with the election overshadowed reports that the U.S. government had actually been responsible for several hacking attempts that targeted state election systems.

For instance, the state of Georgia reported numerous hacking attempts on its election agencies’ networks, nearly all of which were traced back to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Now that the CIA has been shown to not only have the capability but also the express intention of replacing the “fingerprint” of cyber-attacks it conducts with those of another state actor, the CIA’s alleged evidence that Russia hacked the U.S. election – or anything else for that matter – is immediately suspect. There is no longer any way to determine if the CIA’s proof of Russian hacks on U.S. infrastructure is legitimate, as it could very well be a “false flag” attack.

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“..we come to find out the same people who told us the Russians were our enemy, revealing corruption and depravity on a monumental scale via the Podesta emails, they were, in fact, the ones spying on us all along – both lying and mocking us like Lords in a fiefdom.”

CIA Contractor on #VAULT7 Leak: ‘There is Heavy Shit Coming Down’ (RF)

Everything that Wikileaks has revealed over the past year has hurt both the integrity and honor of the United States. The question you have to grapple with, is it well deserved? After all, living inside of a vast and powerful empire has its benefits. As the empire expands, so does the wealth of its citizens. But it hasn’t worked out that way, has it? The CIA deep staters have turned their guns on the people they serve – using third world banana republic tactics to silence opposition, take down regimes not beholden to their world view, using advanced technology to both spy and monitor on American citizens – infringing on our civil rights like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The reason for the populist uprising and the lack of equanimity amongst those traditionally supportive of the CIA lies in the improper distribution of the spoils of war. There aren’t any.

All the average American has received from $10 trillion in Obama inspired deficit spending is American casualties of war, jobs lost to cheaper labor overseas, expensive oil prices, expensive healthcare, and run away education costs – along with a sundry of social disturbances that have people fed up. While the elite flaunt hedonistic lifestyles, eschewing basic decency for the perverse, normies get more of the same old bullshit. After electing a true agent of change in Donald Trump, the people are laughed at and impugned by the elitist media. Their President is set upon by ‘permanent government’ officials in the intelligence agencies – whose only goal is to derail and destroy his term before it even begins.

Then we come to find out the same people who told us the Russians were our enemy, revealing corruption and depravity on a monumental scale via the Podesta emails, they were, in fact, the ones spying on us all along – both lying and mocking us like Lords in a fiefdom. Here’s Fox News reporting on the latest scandal to hit the wires, #VAULT7 Fox New sources inside the CIA said the agency was running around like headless chickens, saying ‘there is heavy shit coming down.’

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US exports are plunging. 10.7% to Germany, 13.4% to China.

US Trade Deficit Jumps To Five-Year High On Imports (R.)

The U.S. trade deficit jumped to a near five-year high in January as cell phones and rising oil prices helped to push up the import bill, suggesting trade would again weigh on economic growth in the first quarter. The Commerce Department said on Tuesday the trade gap increased 9.6% to $48.5 billion, the highest level since March 2012. The deficit was in line with economists forecasts. December’s trade shortfall was unrevised at $44.3 billion. When adjusted for inflation, the trade deficit rose to $65.3 billion from $62.0 billion in December. Both the inflation-adjusted exports and imports were the highest on record in January.

The wider trade gap added to weak data such as housing starts, consumer and construction spending in suggesting the economy struggled to regain momentum early in the first quarter after growth slowed to a 1.9% annualized rate in the final three months of 2016. The economy grew at a 3.5% pace in the third quarter. Trade cut 1.7 percentage points from GDP in the fourth quarter. The Atlanta Fed is forecasting GDP rising at a 1.8% rate in the first quarter. The dollar was trading marginally higher, while prices for U.S. government bonds were little changed. U.S. stock index futures were slightly lower. The Trump administration is eyeing trade as it seeks 4% annual GDP growth. President Donald Trump has vowed sweeping changes to U.S. trade policy, starting with pulling out of the 12-nation TPP.

[..] The bulk of the increase in the trade-weighted value of the greenback occurred in the final months of 2016 and will probably take a while to reflect in the trade data. Exports to Germany tumbled 10.7%. A Trump trade adviser has accused Germany of unfairly benefiting from a weak euro. Shipments of goods to China, also singled out by the Trump administration, dropped 13.4%. The politically sensitive U.S.-China trade deficit increased 12.8% to $31.3 billion in January, while the trade gap with Germany fell 8.0% to $4.9 billion. The United States also saw its trade deficit with Mexico shrink 10.1% to its lowest level since July 2015.

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We need to see: 1) dollar terms and 2) Lunar New Year distortions.

China Posts Rare Trade Deficit As February Imports Surge in Yuan Terms (R.)

China unexpectedly posted a rare trade deficit in February as imports surged far more than expected to feed a months-long construction boom, driven by commodities from iron ore and copper to crude oil and coal. Imports in yuan-denominated terms surged 44.7 percent from a year earlier, while exports rose 4.2 percent, official data showed on Wednesday. That left the country with a trade deficit of 60.63 billion yuan ($8.79 billion) for the month, the General Administration of Customs said. Customs has not yet published dollar-denominated trade figures, on which most economists and investors base their forecasts and analysis. Apart from currency fluctuations, higher commodity prices and the timing of the long Lunar New year holidays early in the year also may have distorted the data.

Most of China’s commodity imports grew strongly in volume terms from a year earlier, but dipped from January. Still, economists say the upbeat readings reinforced a growing view that economic activity in China and globally picked up in the first two months of the year. That could give China’s policymakers more confidence to press ahead with oft-delayed and painful structural reforms such as tackling a mountain of debt. Containing the risks from years of debt-fueled stimulus and heavy spending has been a major focus at the annual meeting of China’s parliament which began on Sunday.

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They know something?!

Why Are Europe’s Small Central Banks Stocking Up Foreign Money? (WSJ)

Europe’s smaller central banks are loading up on foreign currencies at rates usually associated with periods of intense global stress, highlighting the fragile underpinnings of the global economic recovery despite the recent upbeat mood in financial markets. Switzerland’s holdings of foreign assets jumped last month at their fastest pace in over two years as its central bank fought the strong franc, which weakens exports and inflation. The Czech central bank intervened in January on a massive scale to maintain its currency target against the euro. Denmark has also stepped up its foreign-currency purchases to keep the krone from strengthening too much. These central banks are showing crisis-like behavior to protect their currencies even in the absence of obvious trouble. This exposes them to losses if their currencies fail to weaken on their own.

It also raises doubts as to how long they can keep this up in an era when economic and political uncertainties appear to be a lasting feature of the world economy. “There is a little bit of survivor behavior,” said Peter Rosenstreich, head of market strategy at Swissquote Bank. “They’ve been protecting their currencies so long and it’s hard to give up that defensive position.” The Swiss National Bank said Tuesday its foreign exchange reserves swelled nearly 25 billion Swiss francs ($24.63 billion) last month to 668 billion francs, the biggest rise since December 2014, the month before the Swiss abandoned a cap on the franc’s value. The pile of foreign reserves is greater than Switzerland’s entire gross domestic product. “It’s quite bizarre. You’d think at some time you’d run out of surprises,” said Stefan Gerlach, chief economist at BSI Bank in Zurich and a former deputy governor at Ireland’s central bank.

[..] Central banks accumulate foreign reserves when they purchase assets denominated in other currencies, using freshly created money. They do this to weaken their currencies, protecting exports and giving a boost to inflation. Foreign reserves can waver slightly due to changes in currency values, but big increases like Switzerland’s signal aggressive intervention. This tool has gained traction in recent years as official rates have turned negative in Denmark and Switzerland and are near zero in the Czech Republic.

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A few good articles for International Women’s Day. Pettifor’s insistence that households are not like governments is important.

Dispel The Economic Myths That Hold Women Back (Ann Pettifor)

There are two economic myths that fail the interests of women. The first is the fallacy that government budgets conform to “the household analogy”: that, as with family budgets, a state’s outgoings cannot exceed its income. The second is that “there is no money” for the services women use and need. On the first, the public are told that cuts in spending and in some benefits, combined with rises in income from taxes will – just as with a household – balance the budget. Even though a single household’s budget is a) minuscule compared to that of a government; b) does not, like the government’s, impact on the wider economy; c) does not benefit from tax revenues (now, or in the foreseeable future); and d) is not backed by a powerful central bank. Despite all these obvious differences, government budgets are deemed analogous (by economists and politicians) to a household budget.

To understand why the government/household analogy is false it is important to understand that the balance of the government budget, unlike that of a household, is entirely a function of the wider economy. If the economy slumps (as in 2008-9) and the private sector weakens, then like a see-saw the public sector deficit, and then the debt, rises. When private economic activity revives (thanks to increased investment, employment, sales etc) tax revenues rise, unemployment benefits fall, and the government deficit and debt follow the same downward trajectory. So, to balance the government’s budget, efforts must be made to revive Britain’s economy, including the indebted private sector.

Because government spending (unlike a household’s spending) has a big impact on the economy, governments can use loan-financed investment to expand tax-generating employment – both public (for example, nurses and teachers) and private sector employment (construction workers). Both nurses and construction workers will return a large part of their incomes into the economy through spending, benefitting the private sector. Thanks to the multiplier effect, that spending will generate VAT and corporation tax revenues – for repaying government debt. George Osborne believed that government spending cuts would be offset by a rise in private sector confidence, inspired by a government “getting its house in order”. But that did not happen.

As many of us predicted, government spending cuts contracted the economy further. Economic activity (investment, sales, employment) was weaker than expected. Even when employment revived, lower wages and insecure, part-time work meant that income and corporate taxes were lower than expected. So government borrowing did not fall. As a result, public debt as a share of GDP was higher than expected. In the meantime, massive harm had been done to public sector services and those employed in the sector – while the economy endured the slowest post-crisis recovery in history. And it was women who largely paid the price.

One woman can be said to have given the phrase “there is no money” much credibility. In her 1983 speech to the Conservative party conference, Margaret Thatcher declared that: “The state has no source of money, other than the money people earn themselves. If the state wishes to spend more it can only do so by borrowing your savings, or by taxing you more … There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money.” Today this framing of the debate is at odds with reality. After the financial crisis, the Bank of England injected £1,000bn into the private finance sector to prevent systemic economic failure. And after the shock of the Brexit vote, the Bank unveiled the “Term Funding Scheme” as part of a £170bn “stimulus package” aimed at the private finance sector. The money was “public money” offered at a historically low interest rate – to bankers. It was not raised by cutting spending, and it was not raised from “your taxes”, even while its issue was backed by Britain’s taxpayers.

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Good points.

Austerity Is A Feminist Issue (G.)

Women are massively more affected by budget cuts than men, says the Labour peer. They are more likely to be single parents, earn less and work part time than their male counterparts. She argues the government must replace ‘gender-neutral’ budgeting with economic policies that put women first.

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100 years ago.

The Women’s Protest That Sparked The Russian Revolution (G.)

The first day of the Russian revolution – 8 March (23 February in the old Russian calendar) – was International Women’s Day, an important day in the socialist calendar. By midday of that day in 1917 there were tens of thousands of mainly women congregating on the Nevsky Propsekt, the principal avenue in the centre of the Russian capital, Petrograd, and banners started to appear. The slogans on the banners were patriotic but also made forceful demands for change: “Feed the children of the defenders of the motherland”, read one; another said: “Supplement the ration of soldiers’ families, defenders of freedom and the people’s peace”. The crowds of demonstrators were varied. The city’s governor, AP Balk, said they consisted of “ladies from society, lots more peasant women, student girls and, compared with earlier demonstrations, not many workers”. The revolution was begun by women, not male workers.

In the afternoon the mood began to change as female textile workers from the Vyborg side of the city came out on strike in protest against shortages of bread. Joined by their menfolk, they swelled the crowds on the Nevsky, where there were calls for “Bread!” and “Down with the tsar!” By the end of the afternoon, 100,000 workers had come out on strike, and there were clashes with police as the workers tried to cross the Liteiny bridge, connecting the Vyborg side with the city centre. Most were dispersed by the police but several thousand crossed the ice-packed river Neva (a risky thing to do at -5C) and some, angered by the fighting, began to loot the shops on their way to the Nevsky. Balk’s Cossacks struggled to clear the crowds on the Nevsky. They would ride up the demonstrators, only to stop short and retreat. Later it emerged that they were mostly young reservists who had no experience of dealing with crowds.

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How to kill a city part 829.

Vacant Homes Are A Global Epidemic (BD)

Runaway real estate speculation has been filling global capitals with vacant homes, creating artificial shortages in the world’s most sought after cities. The “shortage” has made local home owners wealthy overnight, but it comes at the cost of turning lively cities into empty shells. The city of Paris has decided it’s had enough, and implemented a tax in 2015. They didn’t quite get the results they wanted, so they’re now tripling the tax to 60%. Paris has been trying to deal with vacant property owners for some time. Despite warnings that the city will have to take action, the number of vacant homes is growing. There’s now 107,000 vacant homes, representing 7.5% of all residential dwellings in the city according to France’s INSEE. Deputy Mayor Ian Brossat told Le Monde that 40,000 of those vacant homes aren’t even connected to the electrical grid.

Local developers have argued that more new construction is the solution. However Brossat argues “In a city as dense as Paris, where it is very difficult to build, controlling the occupancy of housing is strategic.” It appears the city believes they have 107,000 reasons more construction is not the solution. Paris implemented a tax recently, but it didn’t quite produce the desired outcome. Starting in 2015 the city elected to tax vacant homes the equivalent of 20% of the fair market value of rent. On January 30 this year, they decided to triple that amount to 60%. The idea isn’t to punish those fortunate enough to own a second (or twelfth) home. They’re trying to discourage speculation and promote a healthy rental market.

Paris’ 107,000 empty homes might seem like a lot, but it’s becoming strangely normal around the world. New York City had a whopping 318,831 vacant units in 2015. It’s a hot topic in Sydney, where 118,499 vacant units were counted in 2013. Heck, London considers it a critical issue, and they “only” have 22,000 empty homes. There’s a massive numbers of vacant homes across the globe, but only Paris has decided to take aggressive action to tackle it. Growing populations have barely put a dent in the vacant homes in global real estate capitals. The amount of speculation has been scaling with demand, which is a curious paradox. This signifies an issue that’s more complex than just a basic supply and demand problem.

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And you can’t call it perjury. But look at the article below this one.

There’s No Housing Bubble in Australia, Heads of Big Banks Say (BBG)

Soaring home prices in Australia’s biggest cities don’t necessarily mean the country is in the grip of a housing bubble, according to the heads of the nation’s biggest banks. Testifying before a parliamentary committee, the chief executives of National Australia, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank of Australia all said that while they are worried about elements of the housing market, prices aren’t over-inflated. “I would draw the distinction between a speculative bubble in prices and prices beyond what fundamentals would justify,” Westpac’s Brian Hartzer told the committee in Canberra Wednesday. A bubble isn’t occurring in Sydney or Melbourne, where house prices have risen the most, he said.

“There are increasing risks, but I still believe the answer is no,” National Australia Bank’s Andrew Thorburn said when asked if houses in Sydney and Melbourne are overpriced. Commonwealth Bank, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, is “lending at levels we are comfortable with” across Australia, CEO Ian Narev told the committee when he testified Tuesday. The bank chiefs were appearing in front of the committee, which was set up by the government to ward off calls for a more far-reaching inquiry into the financial industry, for the second time within six months. The banks have been under pressure from opposition parties after a series of scandals in their insurance and wealth divisions and concern they failed to pass on the full benefits of central bank interest-rate cuts to borrowers.

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“Boosting leveraged demand to make housing affordable makes no sense.”

Australian Lenders Are Handing Out Mortgages Like Confetti (LF)

In the thrall of irrational exuberance, Australia is experiencing a debt-financed housing bubble. In our two major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, the housing markets are out of control due to the rapid acceleration of debt enabled by lenders issuing remarkable amounts of mortgages. Household debt to income ratios for the states of NSW and VIC suggest this to be the case. Australian lenders are handing out mortgages like confetti – why? It demonstrates banks and non-bank lenders are quite willing to issue risky mortgages to applicants who will not have the long-term financial capability to repay. Lenders are indeed taking on these excessive risks. Throwing everything but the kitchen sink is today the common approach governments take to ensure housing prices continually rise given their fear of the political and economic damage caused by falling prices.

Governments engaged in co-buying and co-owning housing with FHBs stimulates debt accumulation and hence prices. The VIC government, for instance, is attempting to provide a large gift to current residential land owners and lenders at the cost of FHBs acquiring mortgages they cannot afford to service over the long-run. This is done through the proposed shared equity model whereby the government acquires 25% of the home price. To make matters worse, the VIC government is also cutting stamp duty for FHBs and doubling the FHOB (for new properties in regional areas); both in theory have the effect of boosting housing prices. The VIC government cannot allow housing prices in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria decline significantly because it will suffer the same adverse impact that Dublin and Ireland experienced last decade.

The problems are the same and the end result will be the same. Unfortunately, just like the federal government, the VIC government is stuck. Implementing policies on the demand and supply sides to reduce land prices will cause a great deal of pain to all stakeholders: governments, lenders, homeowners, investors, including employees – many may lose their jobs if debt growth craters and removes a considerable portion of demand from the economy. Government has dug itself into a hole but instead of assessing a way out, it simply continues to dig, hoping to kick the can down the road long enough for the next party in power to deal with the problems. Both the LNP and ALP at the federal and state levels have refused to deal with the issues at hand, and prefer to enslave a generation of Aussies to the most profitable and high-risk banking system in the western world.

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As I’ve been saying forever. Recovery is unpossible in Greece.

Greece’s Still-Falling GDP Dispels Creditors’ “Recovery” Myth (Prime)

The latest GDP figures for Greece, relating to Q4 of 2016, are disastrous. For Greece first and foremost, but also for the credibility of the EU and IMF’s failed harsh austerity (but on the EU side no-debt-cancellation) policy. Far from evidencing the long-promised recovery, they show a new decline in GDP – both on the previous quarter (after seasonal adjustment) and year on year. In fact, the economy has been broadly stagnant at a low level since 2013. In constant volume terms, GDP fell by over 27% from (peak) Q2 2007 to Q4 2013, and in Q4 2016 it was 0.3% smaller than in Q4 2013. In Q4 it was only marginally higher than the post-crisis record low to date, Q3 2015. This chart from Elstat (the Greek Statistical Office) shows the development of GDP over the last decade:

What is more extraordinary is that current price (i.e. nominal) GDP has fallen even further than real GDP over the decade – by 28.5% From 2008 to 2016, GDP fell quarter-on-quarter in no fewer than 27 out of 36 quarters, of which two in 2016. [..] there has been some modest improvement, with unemployment in November 2016 about 66,000 lower than a year before, and employment up by about 50,000. But employment is still 200,000 below its 2011 level. The unemployment rate remains a disastrous 23%, which reminds one of chronic European levels in the 1920s and 1930s:

The Financial Times’ Mehreen Khan yesterday (6 March) described the current state of negotiations towards the absurd requirement of a contractionary 3.5% of GDP budget surplus (i.e. after interest): “Progress on the country’s €86bn rescue deal has stuttered this year following a standoff between the EU and IMF over the level of austerity, reforms and debt relief baked into Greece’s three-year programme. Bailout monitors however returned to Athens last week to ensure the left-wing Greek government was making steps towards legislating for around €2bn in tax and pension measures that will help the country meet a surplus target of 3.5 per cent of GDP from 2018. Approval of the second review would unlock around €6bn in rescue cash for the economy.”

And ah yes, as Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Chair of the Eurogroup finance ministers, put it on 20th February, in an interview with CNBC (h/t Professor Helen Thompson ): “…anyone who wants to talk about crisis can talk to someone else because the Greek economy is gradually recovering and what we need to do is to strengthen that and give that more opportunity and that is what I’m trying to do.” Alas, Mr Dijsselbloem comes from the Dutch Labour Party, not the conservatives, and here symbolizes all that is so profoundly wrong with the Eurozone’s economic policy and ideology. It’s high time he looked again at that table of unemployment in the 1930s – and the terrible ordeal imposed on the Dutch working class.

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The creditors force Greek companies into contortionist tricks just to survive. There is such a thing as too much tax.

Tax Weary Greek Employers Pay In Kind As Creditor Demands Rise (BBG)

When Maria’s employer, a large communications company in Athens, gave her additional tasks at one of its new units, it told her she wouldn’t be paid for the work in euros. “I was informed that this extra payment of 150 euros per month would be in coupons that I can use in supermarkets,” said the 45-year-old, declining to provide her last name for fear of losing her job. Payments in kind are among practices companies are using in Greece as they seek to cap payroll costs, undermining efforts to balance the books of the country’s cash-strapped social security system. As creditors push the government to boost its budget surplus, companies avoiding payroll charges and effectively expanding the shadow economy are making the task harder. By some estimates, the so-called black market already accounts for as much as a quarter of Greece’s economy.

“Such practices help companies to avoid social contributions, but the burden for the economy is huge,” said Panos Tsakloglou, a professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business. “Less contributions for pensions means more budget transfers to them which then leads to more austerity measures to meet fiscal targets, measures that will probably hit pensioners.” Greek officials have been meeting in Athens with representatives of the euro area and IMF to set out the policies the country must undertake to unlock more bailout loans. The government foresees an accord in March or early April, but the scale of pending issues raises concerns they may be politically hard to sell at home. Greece has agreed to target for a budget surplus before interest payments equal to 3.5% of GDP for 2018, which could mean more belt-tightening.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government finds itself between a rock and a hard place as it tries to appease creditors while avoiding mass protests. After an anemic recovery, the Greek economy shrank again in the fourth quarter, raising the specter of growing tensions at home even as European creditors and the IMF push for more austerity. With an economy that has shrunk by more than a quarter in the last seven years, Greece has an unemployment rate of 23%, close to a historic high. Creditors, meanwhile, are demanding greater labor-market flexibility that would make it easier for companies to hire and fire people. They want the threshold of collective dismissals to be doubled to 10% and demand that Athens not revoke any of the measures legislated during the crisis.

[..] For overtaxed Greek companies, dodging social security contributions through payments in kind has become a way to make ends meet. According to the latest available data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average single worker in Greece faced a tax wedge of 39.3% compared with an average of 35.9% among developed economies. About half of the burden falls upon employers. “We do not have the exact picture,” said Nasos Iliopoulos, an official in Greece’s Labor Ministry. “But it is clear that it is not legal to replace payments with coupons. It is only permitted to give coupons as an extra bonus. Companies are seeking to gain from lower social contributions and also from not paying for extra working hours.”

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There’s nothing new.

America’s Forgotten History of Illegal Deportations (Atlantic)

It was a time of economic struggle, racial resentment and increasing xenophobia. Installed in the White House was a president who had never before held elected office. A moderately successful businessman, he promised American jobs for Americans—and made good on that promise by slashing immigration by nearly 90 percent. He wore his hair parted down the middle, rather than elaborately piled on top, and his name was Herbert Hoover, not Donald Trump. But in the late 1920s and early 1930s, under the president’s watch, a wave of illegal and unconstitutional raids and deportations would alter the lives of as many as 1.8 million men, women and children—a threat that would seem to loom just as large in 2017 as it did back in 1929.

What became colloquially known as the “Mexican repatriation” efforts of 1929 to 1936 are a shameful and profoundly illustrative chapter in American history, yet they remain largely unknown—despite their broad and devastating impact. So much so that today, a different president is edging towards similar solutions, with none of the hesitation or concern that basic consciousness would seem to require. [..] Back in Hoover’s era, as America hung on the precipice of economic calamity—the Great Depression—the president was under enormous pressure to offer a solution for increasing unemployment, and to devise an emergency plan for the strained social safety net. Though he understood the pressing need to aid a crashing economy, Hoover resisted federal intervention, instead preferring a patchwork of piecemeal solutions, including the targeting of outsiders.

According to former California State Senator Joseph Dunn, who in 2004 began an investigation into the Hoover-era deportations, “the Republicans decided the way they were going to create jobs was by getting rid of anyone with a Mexican-sounding name.” “Getting rid of” America’s Mexican population was a random, brutal effort. “For participating cities and counties, they would go through public employee rolls and look for Mexican-sounding names and then go and arrest and deport those people,” said Dunn. “And then there was a job opening!” “We weren’t rounding up people who were Canadian,” he added. “It was an absolutely racially-motivated program to create jobs by getting rid of people.”

[..] The so-called repatriation effort was, in large part, a misnomer, given the fact that as many as sixty percent of those sent to “home” Mexico were U.S. citizens: American-born children of Mexican-descent who had never before traveled south of the border. (Dunn noted, “I don’t know how you can repatriate someone to a country they’ve not been born or raised in.”) “Individuals who left at 5, 6 and 7 years old found themselves in Mexico dealing with process of socialization, of learning the language, but they maintained an American identity,” said Balderrama. “And still had the dream to come back to ‘my country.’”

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Oct 202016
 
 October 20, 2016  Posted by at 9:48 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Thomas Eakins Walt Whitman 1891

Fed Risks Repeating Lehman Blunder As US Recession Storm Gathers (AEP)
ECB Urges EU To Curb Virtual Money On Fear Of Losing Control (R.)
Saudi Arabia’s Bond: a Defining Trade for 2016 (WSJ)
How do Clinton and Trump’s Tax Plans Compare? (TF)
Trump is a Pink Elephant (Scott Adams)
California Launches Criminal Probe Into Wells Fargo Account Scandal (R.)
Who’s Powering the War on Cash? (DQ)
The Cult Of The Expert – And How It Collapsed (G.)
Theresa May To Tell EU Leaders ‘There Will Be No Second Referendum'(G.)
Australia Housing Boom Peak Has Passed – Morgan Stanley (BBG)
Did the White House Declare War on Russia? (Stephen F. Cohen)
What Obama’s Record Deportations Look Like (I’Cept)
Use Of Strongest Antibiotics Rises To Record Levels On European Farms (G.)

 

 

“The Bank for International Settlements estimates that 60pc of the world economy is locked into the US currency system, and that debts denominated in dollars outside US jurisdiction have ballooned to $9.8 trillion.”

Fed Risks Repeating Lehman Blunder As US Recession Storm Gathers (AEP)

The risk of a US recession next year is rising fast. The Federal Reserve has no margin for error. Liquidity is suddenly drying up. Early warning indicators from US ‘flow of funds’ data point to an incipent squeeze, the long-feared capitulation after five successive quarters of declining corporate profits. Yet the Fed is methodically draining money through ‘reverse repos’ regardless. It has set the course for a rise in interest rates in December and seems to be on automatic pilot. “We are seeing a serious deterioration on a monthly basis,” said Michael Howell from CrossBorder Capital, specialists in global liquidity. The signals lead the economic cycle by six to nine months. “We think the US is heading for recession by the Spring of 2017. It is absolutely bonkers for the Fed to even think about raising rates right now,” he said.

The growth rate of nominal GDP – a pure measure of the economy – has been in an unbroken fall since the start of the year, falling from 4.2pc to 2.5pc. It is close to stall speed, flirting with levels that have invariably led to recessions in the post-War era. “It is a little scary. When nominal GDP slows like that, you can be sure that financial stress will follow. Monetary policy is too tight and the slightest shock will tip the US into recession,” said Lars Christensen, from Markets and Money Advisory. If allowed to happen, it will be a deeply frightening experience, rocking the global system to its foundations. The Bank for International Settlements estimates that 60pc of the world economy is locked into the US currency system, and that debts denominated in dollars outside US jurisdiction have ballooned to $9.8 trillion.

The world has never before been so leveraged to dollar borrowing costs. BIS data show that debt ratios in both rich countries and emerging markets are roughly 35 percentage points of GDP higher than they were at the onset of the Lehman crisis. This time China cannot come to the rescue. Beijing has already pushed credit beyond safe limits to almost $30 trillion. Fitch Ratings suspects that bad loans in the Chinese banking system are ten times the official claim. The current arguments over Brexit would seem irrelevant in such circumstances, both because the City would be drawn into the flames and because the eurozone would face its own a shattering ordeal. Even a hint of coming trauma would detonate a crisis in Italy.

[..] The velocity of M1 money in the US has continued to slow, hitting a 40-year low of 5.75 over the summer, and markets are only just awakening to the unsettling thought that China’s latest boomlet has already topped out. Beijing is having to hit the brakes again. Crossborder said new rules for money market funds that came into force this month have complicated the picture, causing the stock of US commercial paper to shrivel by $200bn. Yet there are ways to filter out some of these effects. The plain fact is that 3-month lending rates in the off-shore ‘eurodollar’ markets in London have tripled since July to 0.93pc, sharply tightening conditions for global finance. Investors may have been too complacent in discounting these gyrations as part of a regulatory hiccup when something more sinister is emerging.

[..] Albert Edwards from Societe Generale says gross domestic income (GDI) was the most accurate gauge of the economy as the pre-Lehman crisis unfolded, and this measure has been flat for the last two quarters.”The pronounced weakness of GDI relative to GDP might be an ominous omen, for it may well be indicating that a US recession is already underway – just as it was in 2007,” he said.

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A central bank that tells politicians what legislation it desires can never again claim independence anymore.

ECB Urges EU To Curb Virtual Money On Fear Of Losing Control (R.)

The European Central Bank wants EU lawmakers to tighten proposed new rules on digital currencies such as bitcoin, fearing they might one day weaken its own control over money supply in the euro zone. The European Commission’s draft rules, aimed at fighting terrorism, require currency exchange platforms to increase checks on the identities of people exchanging virtual currencies for real ones and report suspicious transactions. In a legal opinion published on Tuesday, the ECB said EU institutions should not promote the use of digital currencies and should make clear they lack the legal status of currency or money.

“The reliance of economic actors on virtual currency units, if substantially increased in the future, could in principle affect the central banks’ control over the supply of money … although under current practice this risk is limited,” the ECB said in the opinion for the European Parliament and Council. “Thus (EU legislative bodies) should not seek in this particular context to promote a wider use of virtual currencies.” The ECB argues the Commission’s proposal does not go far enough as it does not cover the use of virtual money to buy goods and services. “Such transactions would not be covered by any of the control measures provided for in the proposal and could provide a means of financing illegal activities.”

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Dissaving.

Saudi Arabia’s Bond: a Defining Trade for 2016 (WSJ)

Want a single instrument that wraps together nearly every big political, financial and economic theme in today’s world? Saudi Arabia’s mammoth $17.5 billion bond issue, marking its debut in international markets, is it. The size of the deal is impressive but actually the least important thing about it. Big bond deals tend to build a momentum of their own. But it does speak to the search for yield. The $6.5 billion 30-year portion of Saudi Arabia’s bond is set to pay 2.1 percentage points more in yield than a comparable U.S. Treasury, or around 4.6%. That is a sizeable pickup in a world where developed-market bond yields are on the floor or in negative territory. That Saudi Arabia is doing the deal at all is a more telling factor: The oil bounty that has propelled the economy has run dry.

The 18-month-long rout in oil prices that started in 2014 sent the country hurtling from a budget surplus to a deficit in 2015 of 15.9% of GDP that is set to narrow only to 13% in 2016, according to the IMFd. In 2013, government debt stood at just 2.2% of GDP, according to Moody’s. By 2017, it is forecast to be 22.9%. The level isn’t a source of concern, but the swift change shows the country’s stark reversal of fortunes. In the near term, buyers of the bonds are betting largely on oil. Swings in the price are likely to have a direct impact on the perception of Saudi Arabia as a credit. The recovery in oil prices, which stand close to their high of the year, has eased concerns about financial stability and helps explain some of the enthusiasm for the deal. But further ahead, this is a bet on the ability and willingness of the country to transform itself while maintaining social and political stability.

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Explanations at the link. h/t Mish

How do Clinton and Trump’s Tax Plans Compare? (TF)

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have released tax plans during the campaign. The Tax Foundation has analyzed both the plans using our Taxes and Growth (TAG) model to estimate how their plans would impact taxpayers, federal revenues, and economic growth. Below, is a chart that contains all you need to know about the candidates’ plans.

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“..if you are afraid that Donald Trump is a racist/sexist clown with a dangerous temperament, you have been brainwashed by the best group of brainwashers in the business right now..”

Trump is a Pink Elephant (Scott Adams)

Here’s a little thought experiment for you: If a friend said he could see a pink elephant in the room, standing right in front of you, but you don’t see it, which one of you is hallucinating? Answer: The one who sees the pink elephant is hallucinating. Let’s try another one. If a friend tells you that you were both abducted by aliens last night but for some reason only he remembers it, which one of you hallucinated? Answer: The one who saw the aliens is hallucinating. Now let’s add some participants and try another one. If a crowd of people are pointing to a stain on the wall, and telling you it is talking to them, with a message from God, and you don’t see anything but a stain, who is hallucinating? Is it the majority who see the stain talking or the one person who does not? Answer: The people who see the stain talking are experiencing a group hallucination, which is more common than you think.

In nearly every scenario you can imagine, the person experiencing an unlikely addition to their reality is the one hallucinating. If all observers see the same addition to their reality, it might be real. But if even one participant can’t see the phenomenon – no matter how many can – it is almost certainly not real. Here I pause to remind new readers of this blog that I’m a trained hypnotist and a student of persuasion in all its forms. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to learn the tricks for discerning illusion from reality. And I’m here to tell you that if you are afraid that Donald Trump is a racist/sexist clown with a dangerous temperament, you have been brainwashed by the best group of brainwashers in the business right now: Team Clinton. They have cognitive psychologists such as Godzilla advising them. Allegedly.

I remind you that intelligence is not a defense against persuasion. No matter how smart you are, good persuaders can still make you see a pink elephant in a room where there is none (figuratively speaking). And Clinton’s team of persuaders has caused half of the country to see Trump as a racist/sexist Hitler with a dangerous temperament. That’s a pink elephant. As a public service (and I mean that literally) I have been trying to unhypnotize the country on this matter for the past year. I don’t do this because I prefer Trump’s policies or because I know who would do the best job as president. I do it because our system doesn’t work if you think there is a pink elephant in the room and there is not. That isn’t real choice. That is an illusion of choice.

Trump represents what is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring real change to a government that is bloated and self-serving. Reasonable people can disagree on policies and priorities. But Trump is the bigger agent for change, if that’s what you think the country needs. I want voters to see that choice for what it is. And it isn’t a pink elephant. If you are wondering why a socially liberal and well-educated cartoonist such as myself is not afraid of Trump, it’s because I don’t see the pink elephant. To me, all anti-Trumpers are experiencing a shared illusion.

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If you don’t even jail people for this kind of stuff, your justice system is fast eroding.

California Launches Criminal Probe Into Wells Fargo Account Scandal (R.)

The California Attorney General’s Office has launched a criminal investigation into Wells Fargo over allegations it opened millions of unauthorized customer accounts and credit cards, according to a seizure warrant seen by Reuters. Attorney General Kamala Harris authorized a seizure warrant against the bank that seeks customer records and other documents, saying there is probable cause to believe the bank committed felonies. The probe marks the latest setback for the bank in a growing scandal that led to the abrupt retirement of its chief executive officer, monetary penalties, compensation clawbacks, lost business and damage to its reputation.

[..] This is at least the second criminal probe to be opened into Wells Fargo since last month. In September a source told Reuters that federal prosecutors are also looking into the matter. An affidavit filed by Special Agent Supervisor James Hirt with the California Department of Justice reveals that interviews with possible victims of the fraud have already started. One victim, identified only as “Ms. B,” told the investigator that she had declined a request by a Wells Fargo teller in late 2011 or 2012 to open new accounts. But sometime in late 2013 or early 2014, she started to receive notices that she and her husband “allegedly owned on three life insurance policies held by the bank,” the affidavit says.

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Everyone with power is.

Who’s Powering the War on Cash? (DQ)

[..] cash’s days are numbered, as technological advances and changes in generational priorities dampen its allure. The world is brimming with individuals and institutions determined to put it out of its misery. Top of the list are the world’s central banks, which have the perfect motive for whacking cash: i.e. to make negative interest rates an eternal — or at least, more enduring — reality. And the only way to do that is to stop depositors from cashing out, as the Bank of England chief economist Andrew Hadlaine all but admitted in 2014. Japan and Europe are already deep into negative territory, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen has already said that the U.S. should be prepared for the same outcome. But as long as cash exists, there’s no way of preventing depositors from doing the logical thing – i.e. taking their money out of the bank and parking it where the erosive effects of NIRP can’t reach it.

Central banks are not the only ones who dream of a cash-free world. For credit card companies, cash is the ultimate rival. As such, it’s no surprise that the likes of Visa and MasterCard are among those pushing the hardest for a cashless economy. For banks, the benefits are no less obvious, including cost cuts, greater control over the flow of customer funds, and larger fees. As for politicians, Eurocrats and global plutocrats, including the senior servants of the IMF, World Bank and United Nations, they will enjoy even greater access to and dominion over the people’s funds. What better way of controlling the people than by controlling their access to the money they need to survive? It would amount to what Martin Armstrong calls “totalitarian control over the economy.”

These powerful agents have already created a perfect platform for achieving their dream: The Better Than Cash Alliance (BTCA), a UN-hosted partnership of governments, companies and international organizations. Its purpose, in its own words, is “to accelerate the transition from cash to digital payments globally through excellence in advocacy, knowledge and services to members.” The Better Than Cash Alliance’s membership list reads like a who’s who of some of the world’s most influential corporations and institutions. They include Coca Coca, Visa and Mastercard. Apple is, for now, conspicuously absent from the list, but in its place representing the tech industry is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Also on the list are the Citi Foundation, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Saving Banks Institute, which represents 7,000 retail and savings banks worldwide. Member institutions range from powerful private foundations — including the Ford Foundation and the Clinton Development Initiative — to a bewildering alphabet soup of UN organizations, including WFP (the World Food Programme), UNFPA (the UN Population Fund), UNPD (the UN Development Program), IFAD (the International Fund for Agricultural Development) and UNCDF (the UN Capital Development Fund).

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Interesting theme, but in an article of this length, confining your self to central bankers only seems a shame.

The Cult Of The Expert – And How It Collapsed (G.)

When the history is written of the revolt against experts, September 2008 will be seen as a milestone. The $85bn rescue of the American International Group (AIG) dramatised the power of monetary gurus in all its anti-democratic majesty. The president and Congress could decide to borrow money, or raise it from taxpayers; the Fed could simply create it. And once the AIG rescue had legitimised the broadest possible use of this privilege, the Fed exploited it unflinchingly. Over the course of 2009, it injected a trillion dollars into the economy – a sum equivalent to nearly 30% of the federal budget – via its newly improvised policy of “quantitative easing”. Time magazine anointed Bernanke its person of the year. “The decisions he has made, and those he has yet to make, will shape the path of our prosperity, the direction of our politics and our relationship to the world,” the magazine declared admiringly.

The Fed’s swashbuckling example galvanized central bankers in all the big economies. Soon Europe saw the rise of its own path-shaping monetary chieftain, when Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, defused panic in the eurozone in July 2012 with two magical sentences. “Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro,” he vowed, adding, with a twist of Clint Eastwood menace, “And believe me, it will be enough.” For months, Europe’s elected leaders had waffled ineffectually, inviting hedge-fund speculators to test the cohesion of the eurozone. But now Draghi was announcing that he was badder than the baddest hedge-fund goon. Whatever it takes. Believe me.

In the summer of 2013, when Hollywood rolled out its latest Superman film, cartoonists quickly seized upon a gag that would soon become obvious. Caricatures depicted central-bank chieftains decked out in Superman outfits. One showed Bernanke ripping off his banker’s shirt and tie, exposing that thrilling S emblazoned on his vest. Another showed the bearded hero hurtling through space, red cape fluttering, right arm stretched forward, a powerful fist punching at the void in front of him. “Superman and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke are both mild-mannered,” a financial columnist deadpanned. “They are both calm, even in the face of global disasters. They are both sometimes said to be from other planets.”

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They’re going to roast her today, and not in a funny way.

Theresa May To Tell EU Leaders ‘There Will Be No Second Referendum'(G.)

Theresa May is to warn her 27 fellow European Union leaders over a working dinner in Brussels that Britain’s decision to leave is irreversible and there can be no second referendum. Thursday’s meeting of the European council will be the prime minister’s first opportunity to address the leaders of all the other member states since the UK voted to leave the European Union in June. Donald Tusk, the European council president, has insisted Britain’s future relationship with the EU will not be on the formal agenda for the two-day meeting, but he will give May the opportunity to set out the “current state of affairs in the country” over coffee at the end of the meal.

A No 10 source said she would tell her fellow EU leaders: “The British people have made a decision and it’s right and proper that that decision is honoured. There will be no second referendum. The priority now has got to be looking to the future, and the relationship between the UK, once we leave”. The source added that the prime minister would also seek to reassure the other member states, amid growing fears that Brexit could unleash political and economic instability in Britain and the rest of Europe. “She wants the outcome at the end of this process to be a strong UK, as a partner of a strong EU,” the source said. “She doesn’t want the process of the UK leaving to be damaging for the rest of the EU. She wants it to be a smooth, constructive, orderly process.”

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Painful times ahead.

Australia Housing Boom Peak Has Passed – Morgan Stanley (BBG)

Australia’s housing boom has passed its peak, with a looming apartment glut set to lead to a sharp slowdown in future developments, according to Morgan Stanley. The slowdown in construction will hurt economic growth, put 200,000 jobs at risk and prompt the central bank to resume cutting interest rates next year, Morgan Stanley analysts led by Daniel Blake said in a note dated Oct. 19. “We believe the growth contribution from the housing boom has already peaked and look for a plateau over 2017 and decline through 2018,” the analysts said. The housing industry is also facing a “more imminent credit crunch” for purchases and developments, they said. “The greatest vulnerability is settlement risk on the 160,000 apartments we forecast being completed through the end of 2017,” they said in the report.

“Listed developers report low failure rates currently, but also confirm credit availability has tightened, especially for foreign investors. Non-bank credit is moving to plug the gap at higher interest rates, but we expect some projects will land with the receiver.” Shares of developer Lendlease Group slumped as much as 5.5% in Sydney trading Thursday after the company flagged a slowdown in building activity, saying Sydney apartment activity is peaking and the Melbourne apartment sector is facing a high level of supply. In May, all 391 apartments offered by Lendlease at a project in Sydney were snapped up in just four hours. A national housing oversupply of about 100,000 dwellings will develop by 2018, Morgan Stanley said, as a glut of apartment projects are completed, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.

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Cohen is the no. 1 American expert on Russia. Audio file at the link.

Did the White House Declare War on Russia? (Stephen F. Cohen)

Nation Contributing Editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. Cohen reports that a statement by Vice President Joe Biden on NBC’s Meet the Press on October 16, released on October 14, stunned Moscow (though it was scarcely noted in the American media). In response to a question about alleged Russian hacking of Democratic Party offices, in order to disrupt the presidential election and even throw it to Donald Trump, Biden said the Obama administration was preparing to send Putin a “message,” presumably in the form of some kind of cyber-attack.

The Kremlin spokesman and several leading Russian commentators characterized Biden’s announcement as a virtual “American declaration of war on Russia” and as the first ever in history. Cohen observed that at this fraught stage in the new US-Russian Cold War, Biden’s statement, which clearly had been planned by the White House, could scarcely have been more dangerous or reckless—especially considering that there is no actual evidence or logic for the two allegations against Russia that seem to have prompted it. Biden was reacting to official US charges of Kremlin hacking for political purposes. Cohen points out that in fact no actual evidence for this allegation has been produced, only suppositions or, as Glenn Greenwald has argued, “unproven assertions.”

While the US political-media establishment has uncritically stated the allegation as fact, a MIT expert, professor Theodore Postol, has written that there is “no technical way that the US intelligence community could know who did the hacking if it was done by sophisticated nation-state actors.” Instead, Cohen suggests, the charges, leveled daily by the Clinton campaign as part of its McCarthyite Kremlin-baiting of Donald Trump, are mostly political, and he laments the way US intelligence officials have permitted themselves to be used for this unprofessional purpose. Moreover, it is far from clear that the Kremlin actually favors Trump, despite Clinton’s campaign claims.

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“Obama is now on pace to deport more people than the sum of all 19 presidents who governed the United States from 1892-2000..”

What Obama’s Record Deportations Look Like (I’Cept)

Donald Trump noted during the third presidential debate that the Democratic president, Barack Obama has deported millions of people. Indeed, Obama has deported more people than any modern president. From January, at Fusion.net: “Donald Trump’s bilious blather about immigrants reminds us—more often than most people need reminding—that words matter. But the Obama administration’s recent wave of police-state raids on Central American women and children, whose only crime is poverty and a lack of proper paperwork, reminds us that actions matter too. When it comes to getting tough on immigration, Republican candidates talk the talk, but Obama walks the walk. Obama has deported more people than any U.S. president before him, and almost more than every other president combined from the 20th century.

“Immigration-flow numbers are staggering in both directions. In 2014, it’s estimated that more than 200,000 Central Americans tried to emigrate to the United States without documentation. But the Obama government has been deporting them as fast as it can. Since coming to office in 2009, Obama’s government has deported more than 2.5 million people—up 23% from the George W. Bush years. More shockingly, Obama is now on pace to deport more people than the sum of all 19 presidents who governed the United States from 1892-2000, according to government data.

“And he’s not done yet. With the clock ticking down his final months in office, Obama appears to be running up the score in an effort to protect his title as deporter-in-chief from future presidents. To pad the numbers, Homeland Security is now going after the lowest-hanging fruit: women and children who are seeking asylum from violence in Central America. “This is the only time I remember enforcement raids on families of women and children who are fleeing some of the most violent places on the planet,” says Royce Bernstein Murray, director of policy for the National Immigrant Justice Center.

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Intelligent species.

Use Of Strongest Antibiotics Rises To Record Levels On European Farms (G.)

Use of some of the strongest antibiotics available to treat life-threatening infections has risen to record levels on European farms, new data shows. The report reinforces concerns about the overuse of antibiotics on farms, following revelations from the Guardian of the presence of the superbug MRSA in UK-produced meat, in imported meat for sale in UK supermarkets, and on British farms. According to the data from the European Medicines Agency, medicines classified as “critically important in human medicine” by the World Health Organisation appear to be in frequent use on farm animals across the major countries of the EU, including the UK.

This comes in spite of WHO advice that, because of their importance, these drugs should be used only in the most extreme cases, if at all, in treating animals. The latest report from the EMA collates data from member states on the sales of antibiotics for veterinary purposes in 2014, and shows that antibiotic use on farms fell by about 2% on the previous year overall, and by as much as 12% in many countries. But this disguises the rise in the use of the strongest medicines, such as colistin, which is a last resort for life-threatening human illness. The percentage of antibiotics sales made up by the most potent antibiotics remained steady or in some cases increased slightly, indicating an increase in the amount of so-called critically important antibiotics used.

For instance, sales of fluoroquinolones – the newest versions of which are used to treat life-threatening illnesses including pneumonia and Legionnaire’s disease – stood at 141 tonnes across the countries surveyed in 2013, and rose to 172 tonnes in 2014. Sales of macrolides, also classed as critically important to human health, rose from 59 to 67 tonnes in the same period. This shows that efforts to prevent the drugs most crucial for human health from being used in farming are failing.

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